Calm, confident, In control
Because of the forward thinking, positive nature of Solution Focused (SF) work, it is highly suitable for working with children and young people. SF work is used widely in education and the NSPCC also follow the Solution Focused (SF) practices with children and young people in care. SF is different from other types of practice as the change that is sought is located in an imagined future. Of course, children have amazing imaginations, and this can be utilised in therapy. The practitioner helps the child to move towards what they want, rather than move away from the unwanted problem. Each child has different needs and interests, and sessions can be tailored to the individual.
Commonly, I see children for many different presentations of anxiety such as issues with sleeping, food and eating, nail biting, bed-wetting and not wanting to go to school. Children will often demonstrate their confusion or distress by becoming angry or sad, or with challenging behaviour. Stress can result from life changes such as moving home, moving school, bullying, bereavement and family breakdown.
With older children and teenagers, as well as the above, there may be issues with self-confidence, self-esteem, exam stress or uncertainty around sexuality. Any of these may lead to more serious issues such as alcohol or drug misuse, self-harming and even the risk of suicide. As these difficulties are becoming more common in our society, I have become qualified as a Youth Mental Health First Aider to gain a greater understanding. I may carry out SF work in conjunction with other professionals providing a team approach in helping the young person to overcome their difficulties.
Working in schools and colleges
The 2018 Office for National Statistics data states that half of mental ill health begins by age 15 and 75% by age 18. These startling statistics emphasise the importance of teaching children about mental health from an early age.
Bearing this in mind, I have developed a workshop for schools which is suitable for children aged 8 and above called ‘Brains, Bears and Buckets’. The workshop includes an explanation of how the brain works to develop anger, worry and sadness; how to recognise what are normal emotions and when help might be needed; how to identify the actions that help us to cope with our feelings and what strategies we can use to help us to be mentally healthy.
The workshop can be adapted for any age group and the content can be made bespoke for the particular requirements of the school or college.
The primary support for help with children’s’ mental health issues would be via the GP or school/college, and they can refer on if further professional help is required.
For an immediate mental health crisis, visit A&E.
Help can also be obtained from the following organisations:
Books for children and young people
by Naomi Harvey
– Teaches young children about how our brain deals with fears.
My Hidden Chimp
by Prof Steve Peters
– Explains the science of the brain and includes exercises for children and adults to work through
What to do when your brain gets stuck
by Dawn Huebner
– Explains obsessive, compulsive behaviour to children and includes exercises on how to overcome it.
Starving the Anxiety Gremlin
by Kate Collins-Donnelly
– Helps young people understand different types of anxiety and how to manage them
Starving the Anger Gremlin
by Kate Collins-Donnelly
– Helps young people to understand anger
Happy thoughts are everywhere
by Nicky Johnston
– Helps children learn that by changing their thoughts, they can change their feelings and take control of their anxiety
How big are your worries, little bear?
by Jayneen Sanders
– Helps children to learn that everyday worries and fears can be overcome.
by Danny Parker
– Helps children to understand about facing your fears and overcoming them
Zach makes mistakes
by William Mulcahy
– Helps children to understand about learning from mistakes and dealing with embarrassment.
Your fantastic elastic brain
by JoAnn Deak
– Explains how the brain has the capacity to adapt, to fire up new neural pathways and make new connections.
What Lou couldn’t do
by Ashley Spires
– Discusses courage and resilience, when facing challenges.